Linda Bassett (Mrs Jarrett), Deborah Findlay (Sally), Kika Markham (Lena) and June Watson (Vi). Image by Johan Persson
The Lowry, Salford Quays
Until Saturday 11th March, 2017
“I’m walking down the street and there’s a door in the fence open and inside there are three women I’ve never seen before.”
In a similar manner to what Alan Bennett famously did in riding the bus and recording the conversations of the elderly patrons on-board, Caryl Churchill’s hugely acclaimed new play is the theatrical equivalent of peering over your neighbour’s fence and eavesdropping on the many weird and wonderful discussions that arise from the most everyday of topics.
Running at just over 50-minutes in length, and performed by the superb and vastly experienced all-female quartet of Linda Bassett, Deborah Findlay, Kika Markham and June Watson, Escaped Alone sees Churchill continuing with the minimalist, non-naturalistic techniques and themes for which is best known in a fragmented, surreal and at times irrational juxtaposition between the genteel camaraderie of suburban, summer chit-chat and a darkly-comic, dystopian look at a future world on the verge of apocalypse.
Whereas Findlay’s Sally, Markham’s Lena and June Watson’s Vi clearly have a long-established, almost sisterly bond, Linda Bassett’s Mrs Jarrett remains largely on the outskirts, an initially nosy-neighbour – dressed in discordant baggy leggings and a crumpled old khaki jacket – invited into the intimacy of the garden like J. B. Priestly’s eponymous Inspector Goole with The Birlings.
Through the original garden trio we discover shards of deep-rooted secrets, anxieties and fears, revealed and unleashed primarily through personal internal monologues, however Bassett’s outsider steps right through the fourth wall and into the flash-lit blackness of an external thought-space to deliver her unsettling and darkly comedic commentary; an independent and almost ghostly entity from a distorted parallel future back to bring us the disastrous truth.
Simultaneously intimate and boundless, Escaped Alone offers both a gently scathing critique on contemporary politics and a disturbing and deeply sobering view of a future many of us don’t care to imagine. However, despite many inspired ideas and an extensive scope, the play doesn’t always hit its mark and a stand-out cast could do with a little more depth to play with.
Furthermore, Churchill’s stilted, non-naturalistic format feels far too forced and at odds with the primary scenario, ultimately removing the casual, natural rhythm that should flow from a friendly, sisterly conversation.
Running Time: 50 minutes (approx.) (no interval)
Final Performance at The Lowry: Saturday 11th March, 2017.
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